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Couples celebrate marriage and family life in Norwich

Bishop Alan Hopes has celebrated marriage and family life with over 60 couples and their families in an annual Mass at St John’s Cathedral in Norwich. Dr Bonnie Lander Johnson reports.

Bishop Alan celebrated the annual diocesan Marriage and Family Life Mass on Saturday June 16, which also marked the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. Over 60 couples and their families gathered to mark significant wedding anniversaries and Bishop Alan gave his personal blessing to each of them.

The Bishop’s homily drew repeatedly on the wisdom of Humanae Vitae. He commended marriage not only as the sacred bond on which human life depends, but from which the life of the Church draws its great strength.

“Through the offering of your living bodies as a holy sacrifice’ in marriage, God gives his grace not just to you but to the whole world,” said Bishop Alan. “Through your love men and women taste the faithful love of God himself for the whole of humanity.”

It has become a tradition of these Masses that couples celebrating anniversaries of one year, five years, and every multiple of five years thereafter are presented with a certificate by the Bishop. The presentation of these gifts forms a central part of the liturgy. As each couple’s name is called they enter again into the blessings of marriage. This rite also enables the gathered congregation to witness the lived truth of married life.

The procession to the altar begins with couples married one year and ends with those celebrating over 60 years of life together. The visible sign of youth and hope growing steadily toward age and experience is a fervent witness to the mystery and sanctity of marriage and family life.

The Bishop described the achievements of mature couples as the fruit of both human effort and divine grace: “Those of you who are celebrating long and happy marriages today will tell those of you who have come to celebrate one or five or ten years, that long and happy marriages are made through perseverance. First by renewing each day the vows you made to each other on your wedding day. And second, by persevering in prayer. It is God alone who provides the grace by which you can keep those vows each day.”

This year’s Mass also celebrated the work of Kerry Urdzik, who is leaving her role as Marriage and Family Life co-ordinator after five years of service to the families of East Anglia. Kerry is leaving the Diocese to concentrate more fully on her own husband and seven children. The Bishop thanked her for the formidable work she has achieved in the areas of marriage preparation especially.

‘Taking over from Kerry is Dr Bonnie Lander Johnson, a Fellow and Lecturer at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge.

The Marriage and Family Life Commission plays a vital role in the Diocese and depends on the numerous gifts of time and talent offered by volunteers across East Anglia. Through the support of volunteers we are able to follow Bishop Alan’s call to; “Always hold fast to your marriage. Be content with that genuine love which is exercised in mutual faithfulness – never accept anything less!”

Pictured top are all the couples celebrating special anniversaries at the annual Mass and, above, Bishop Alan cuts a celebration cake with two of the couples.